Using Discourse (FLOSS) and setting an example

I wanted to highlight (and congratulate the organizers) for making use of FLOSS (Discourse) for organizing the conference. This might seem small, but it is not common, and shows an alignment with our ethical principles in open education.

I has never used it as a conference system before and I think it is a very powerful tool for communication during the conference, but also for the memory of the conference itself.

Finally, if anyone from @OEGconnect can share a bit about the ‘backstage’ of this experience, or anyone else who has made use of Discourse for conferences, it would be great!


Thank you very much, Tel for these kind words. We have been developing the OEG Connect space at OEGlobal as a community space. It offered to us the potential last year to host the 2020 Online Conference in a form where every element was potentially a conversation. We found balance between making content public while during the event participation was available to registered participants.

It can be a bit “messy” at times but in my opinion that makes it more human.

I am hoping to write up more details as I reflect after the conference on my blog but am willing anytime to discuss here or via email (

Your words mean much considering the impressive features and information in the Educação Vigiada project.

Thank you again for being part of this year’s conference,



I’m still recovering from the conference week :wink:

But some quick references as I have been combing through my “discourse drawer” from when we first though of using it for the conference. I rely heavily on the Discourse meta forums for everything discourse.

There was not much there from searching in terms of people sharing experiences doing this, you find lot about plugins for integrating zoom and jitsi, and event plugins. But this post had helpful suggestions

There was also a while back useful exchange, even with some theory, asked by Linda Harasim who’s been around this game a long time.

I did find this rather elegant discourse site for a German tech organization that made it sound like they run some conference features online, e.g. [for this even](Conference? (I did not dig too deeply)

Also, right here @lucytallents shared her open coursework (and note she is a great example of OE4BW in action) including a discourse powered forum for her GIS for Conservationists course.

I would also tap @Mackiwg for being super knowledgeable on using Discourse in the OERu courses.

If people are interested in asking, sharing more, well just jump in to our discussion.

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P2PU uses Discourse too and Rebus Community

Thanks, Alan - some really useful Discourse details here!

I’m particularly interested in what plugins you’re using to create the well-organised front page. I find the default Discourse setup doesn’t allow me enough flexibility to signpost people to different parts of the forum.

I was also wondering whether you’d considered using the Locations plugin by Pavilion instead of Padlet for your map of conference attendees? I think that would offer a better experience because you can instantly view the profile of any attendee from the map, rather than having to search for the user based on the name they wrote in their Padlet post

I’m pretty much a dabbler- there are really some beautiful Discourse styles out there but it takes some strong CSS and understanding of the workings of the platform. I did a lot of tinkering before the site was much used.

Thanks for the link to the Locations plugin, that one is new and we have had an interest in people being able to attach locations to profiles and creating maps from that.

The padlet was meant more as a one event activity and was not totally optimal, but after looking at several put your pin on a map services, I did not like their complexity or requirement to create accounts.

Here are some customizations from OEG Connect

Custom Components

These are the components I have added (via customize). I also have one for OEG that includes site specific CSS as well as some scripts (below) for modifying the home page

Brand Heather Theme Component - for the top menus meant to mirror the menus on other OEGlobal sites (@Mario helped with additional CSS)

DiscoTOC - For longer documents / pages I like this add on that put in the editor a menu item for a dynamic Table of Contents (appears on the right side) that is based on the posts heading structure (this means sometimes I am edoting other posts that use bold tags to mark headings, go with structural markup, folks, please!)

Social Share - This one provides a means to add more social media sharing services (I think I added LinkedIn)

Custom Hamburger Menu Links - Small but useful to put custom links in the 3 bar hamburger menu (which I suspect many people do not use)


Discourse Tooltips (thanks to my colleague @IslaHF suggesting it) Provides a hover tooltip of posts from listing pages, helpful for previewing

Who’s Online (that’s another from Isla!) - this shows active users, we just added this for the conference and I like how it gives a sense of presences, plus it can enable person to person messaging. This is a favorite feature now (I changed the settings so it shows who was active in last 10 minutes rather than default 5)

Advertising Plugin - we did not get around to using it, and while it looks counter intuitive as we are not using ad services, the option for “House Ads” looked of use to display notices of things you want users to see. We did not have sufficient time to put it into use during the conference.

Customizing the Home Page

This is what you were asking! I tried a few components and plugins for creating headers but was not really satisfied. I used this suggestion for customizing what appears just on the home page


Again, I am really more of an enlightened tinkerer than a discourse expert, and I get a lot of help and useful responses to questions from the Discourse forum

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This may provide more vagueness then clarity, but an attempt to indicate some of the thinking, design, and a lot of tinkering that went into making the conference space here in Discourse

A really useful summary - thanks, Alan!

I was wondering how you linked people to their own preference pages :thinking: Thanks for sharing - it’s something I’ll be implementing on my own Discourse site.

I’ll be experimenting with many of the other plugins you mention as I expand the range of virtual events I host for other conservation organisations. If I find any other useful plugins, I’ll let you know. Much appreciated :pray:

Good to know. There’s so much to discourse that you learn only by trying or breaking things :wink:

You can use the my in a url to replace u/username any user admin url so that

goes to
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